Another major concern for those developing new drugs is the risk that illnesses become resistant to them, with significant worries about antibiotics.

More than 80 leading international pharmaceutical, generics, diagnostics and biotechnology companies, as well as key industry bodies, recently came together to call on governments and industry to work together against drug-resistant infections – so-called ‘superbugs’ – with a joint declaration launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The statement called on governments and industry to support sustained investment in the new products needed to beat the challenges of rising drug resistance. The Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance – drafted and signed by 85 companies and nine industry associations across 18 countries – saw commercial drug and diagnostic developers for the first time agreeing on a common set of principles for global action to support antibiotic conservation and the development of new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines.

The Declaration called for action targeted at:

• Reducing the development of drug resistance. The companies commit to encouraging better and more appropriate use of new and existing antibiotics. This support extends to promoting more judicious use of antibiotics in livestock, as part of a ‘one health’ approach

• Increasing investment in R&D that meets global public health needs and removing the scientific barriers to antibiotic discovery to be overcome

• Improving access to high-quality antibiotics for all

Lord Jim O’Neill, Chairman of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, said: “This Declaration from industry is a major step forward in establishing a properly global response to the challenges of drug resistance. I’m really impressed that such a wide range of companies have been able to agree on a common set of principles and commitments across these important issues: this is a level of consensus that we have not previously seen from the industry on this topic. “The pharmaceutical industry, as well as society at large, cannot afford to ignore the threat of antibiotic resistance, so I commend those companies who have signed the Declaration for recognising the long-term importance of revitalising R&D in antibiotics, and for their leadership in overcoming the difficult issues of collective action at play here.”

Sir Andrew Witty, Chief Executive of GlaxoSmithKline plc, said: “Antibiotic resistance is the sort of global healthcare challenge that this industry should be using its expertise to tackle. “At GSK we have a long heritage and expertise in antibiotics, we’ve been researching and providing these medicines since the Second World War and we remain committed to continuing in this area. “We are already taking a more open and collaborative approach to our antibiotic research, working in pre-competitive collaborations alongside other companies and academics, to overcome the scientific and technical barriers to developing these medicines.”